Something bothers me a bit when a piece gets too clever for its own good.
Where the hell is Senjougahara? Why is Araragi spending so much time with other girls? So much so that Hanekawa can admonish him for it — in a manner of delicious baiting. So yes, this show evokes a harem dynamic and is rather obvious about it; but it still raises my eyebrows at how Senjougahara conveniently disappeared in this episode that allows this harem dynamic to operate.
After all, they got together very early on in the narrative. The relationship, post confession, isn’t a prize at the end of the conflict’s resolution. Rather, it’s the subject — and is subjected to different stresses. In Suruga Monkey, the relationship is exposed: in terms of inequity of responsibility (or at least thoughfulness); the complexities of selfishness and selflessness; and the inauthenticity of trust and/in promises to each other.
Bakemonogatari is interesting in that it chooses to deal with these rather than make the show about arriving at the ‘yes’ as responses to confessions of love. It’s very confident, cheeky actually, for making such a powerful confession scene (at the resolution of Mayoi Snail). What is the story of relationships after yes, after I do? I know. I’ve been married for a few years. It can be less about externalities such as third parties and the like, but more of how different the partners start treating each other — growing into roles, and the like.
The show did this at the resolution of Suruga Monkey. But the question is: how can this be sustained? The harem dynamics as a relationship pressure, to me is a cheap way to do it. It’s too easy for a show that to me has been playing on hard mode. This is what I felt while watching the episode, at first while seeing Araragi hang out with Hanekawa after spending a day with Kanbaru, then when Hanekawa started lecturing him, and then when Araragi spends even more time with Kanbaru and the whole onii-chan business involving Nadeko.
Senjougahara, do you know where your boyfriend is and what he’s been doing?
Apparently, yes. Kanbaru asked Araragi if Senjougahara told him anything about the errand he’s doing (suspiciously not with Senjougahara, but with her instead) and Araragi said no. On the other hand, Senjougahara asked Kanbaru to “try her hardest to act cute.”
While this is somewhat consistent with Senjougahara’s teasing behavior, more than anything it’s a convenience on the part of the narrative to indulge the harem dynamic. I should say here that while not being a fan of harem works, I don’t think they are bad categorically. In this case, I just see it as a cheap way to indulge fanservice that it doesn’t really need to force.
The fanservice is already in our faces; overt and upfront. Why try this ‘subtlety’ now?
If Araragi-kun gives you any troble, give me all the details. I’ll let you pick which is worse for him: being buried in the mountains or sunk beneath the sea.
There is a perspective that sort of works for me: Senjougahara may have forgiven Araragi for not keeping to their agreement to not withhold business regarding oddities (monsters) to each other, and for getting himself in mortal danger in the process (this is a bigger deal than I’ve discussed, think about it — it’s severe); but she’s still going to get even. She won’t have a problem making Kanbaru useful for her purposes at all.
Picking on Araragi is almost second nature to her anyway.
So this baiting behavior by Senjougahara allows for all the come-ons, innuendos, and general temptation that Araragi will experience in the show. Hanekawa lampshades this (it’s like the show saying “yeah we know what we’re doing, it’s intentional and please take it as all cool and shit”) by giving Araragi a lecture on indulging himself with the company of other women (she was right to be surprised that Araragi asked her and not Senjougahara to pick out reference books — Araragi explains this away by making itabout surprising Senjougahara that he’s serious about getting into university).
The show runs with this by making nearly every encounter Araragi has with a female an audiovisual banquet of fanservice. If I were to keep score, Hanekawa, Hachikuji, Shinobu, and now Nadeko… if Araragi indulges himself with the company of these females — it’s on him. He’s not technically cheating, but his behavior is unseemly. Kanbaru is exempted in part because Senjougahara is using her to bait him. At some level I feel that she wants him to fail. The inauthenticity of Senjougahararagi continues.
I noticed the reaction guys pose thanks to Kiri.
Maybe the show will indulge another conceit: Araragi gets himself into trouble again — his hero/messiah/save anyone traits will always get him into trouble and it will be up to Senjougahara to enter every third act of the arcs to save the day and teach him about how to love her. It’s not a bad conceit, though to be honest my attitude towards the contrivance will vary from day to day (when I’m thinking about the show it annoys me, when I’m seeing Senjougahara do awesome shit I’m anything but annoyed).
Oh yeah, before I forget to mention this entirely, Senjougahara did not make a ‘live’ appearance in this episode. She’s talked about and even quoted, but she does nothing here. It’s the first time it ever happened.
A personal note
I realize that I identify with Araragi more than I’d like, in light of what I’ve been saying about how his character is written to be some kind of commentary about the shows viewers (or the light novel’s readers). It’s not a flattering picture. However, I do find myself very indulgent of people who seek me out and share with me their concerns. I find myself ever willing to lend an ear to people I hardly know.
If only these were hawt haremettes rather than otaku wwwww (no offense, guys), I really am that interested in people though. Then again if these sausages were indeed hawt haremettes my own wife may have at me with more than just stationery.
A consideration of ‘happily ever afters’ in anime and manga [->]
The anatomy of romantic arcs in shoujo (biankita 2008/12/05)